’14 Budget to Include BRAC Request, Panetta Reveals
For the second year in a row the Pentagon will ask Congress for a new round of base closures, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters Wednesday during a preview of the department’s fiscal 2014 budget request.
The announcement came as no surprise after Congress roundly rejected the administration’s proposal last year to hold BRAC rounds in 2013 and 2015.
“We will have to because … you can’t have a huge infrastructure supporting a reduced force,” Panetta said in explaining the need to trim the military’s infrastructure.
The administration’s budget request normally would have been released this week, but the recent deal to aver the fiscal cliff and uncertainty over sequestration has delayed it. The White House may not submit the FY 2014 request to Congress until late in March, reported the American Forces Press Service.
As expected, the budget proposal will continue the drawdown in end strength for the military, with the size of the Army shrinking to 490,000 active duty soldiers and the Marine Corps declining to 182,000 troops over the coming years.
The Defense Department will propose some additional cuts to the Air Force and “we will resubmit some of our proposed cuts to the Navy,” Panetta said.
The budget will call for additional savings in overhead. “We have identified $30 billion in new initiatives over the next five years to eliminate overhead and duplication,” he said.
A few areas would receive increased investment, including assistance for transitioning out of the military, family programs and suicide prevention.
If sequestration goes into effect March 1 — triggering about $45 billion in automatic defense cuts in the current fiscal year — the budget will have to be “thrown out of the window” and the services could face significant downsizing, said Panetta and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“Our fear is that it really is going to create a readiness crisis for the military that is going to make it very difficult to respond to the crises that we still have to confront in the world,” Panetta said.